Be wary of giving too much data away


In the recent past have you been approached by a research company and asked to take part in a survey and before you start you are asked for a lot of personal information that you were uncomfortable disclosing?

Well, you are not alone because, according to a recent report conducted by IReach in conjunction with the Compliance Institute, most Irish people (70%) feel some level of discomfort around giving their personal information away to product and service providers.

Half of those surveyed say it makes them anxious to do so, while the other half say they are very cautious and will not give personal data away unless they “absolutely have to do so”.  Furthermore, almost half of people aged 55+ (49%) are extremely hesitant to share details about themselves unless “absolutely necessary”, compared with just a quarter of people aged 25 to 34.

Women are much more concerned handing over their personal data than men at 77% v. 64% and three times as many men than women don’t give it a second thought (16% v. 5%).

When it comes to Government agencies such as the HSE, Department of Social Protection, Revenue Commissioners etc. just more one in 10 (12%) say they are least likely to trust such agencies with their personal data. More than one in five of those who view Government agencies as the least trustworthy with their data were aged between 25 and 34, with 7% claiming they don’t trust banks with their data.

Mobile phone and broadband providers, as well as utility providers such as gas and electricity providers, seem less suspect coming in at 4% and 2% respectively, suggesting people tend to trust these entities more with their information.

There is huge suspicion when it comes to social media companies. The Compliance Institute survey shone a light on this mistrust as the companies topped the poll as the least trusted bodies when it comes to guarding the personal information of users, with six in 10 (56%) people regarding them as the most untrustworthy. Those aged 18-24 were significantly more likely to feel this way, coming in at 74%.

Online retailers came in second place with almost one in five (18%) saying they would be least likely to trust these businesses with their personal information.

Where does this lack of trust come from? Most likely due to the many data leaks and breaches that have been disclosed in recent news stories.  The Compliance Institute concurs, stating that, with Ireland being at the top of the EU league table for the aggregate fines imposed last year, it’s no wonder people are rightfully protective about their information.  Still the younger generation have less reservations providing personal data, which is understandable given that they have grown up in an online world.

Michael Kavanagh, CEO of the Compliance Institute, says: “Social media platforms such as Facebook and Tik-Tok have exploded in recent years with a huge amount of people, both young and old, sharing personal details and minute-by-minute updates of their lives with their world of followers which results in a large volume of personal data being in the hands of social media companies.”

With cybercriminals more than keeping up with cyber-security measures being put in place, more and more people are acutely aware of the menacing rise of identity theft. People need to ask, can this information I’m about to reveal, even the smallest detail, be considered personal and used to identify you either directly or indirectly.

You need to remember that companies and service providers collect vast amounts of information on a daily basis and you might think that allowing access to your personal date to one company is not going to be problematic but, even if one piece of data alone doesn’t identify you, when paired alongside other pieces of data your identity can quickly become known.

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